Sunday, October 25, 2009

Burton Ballet

There's something about Tim Burton--his movies always peak my interest and I can't help but appreciate his dark, artistic nature. "Nightmare Before Christmas" is one of my childhood favorites and I loved every Batman movie he made ("Batman Returns" and "Batman Forever"). I'm so excited to see his adaptation of "Alice in Wonderland" in the next year--another quirky story that grabbed hold of my creative interest as a kid. 

One of my favorite stories he created was "Edward Scissorhands." To me there is something so beautiful about the story--and yes, I realize the man has scissors for hands, but it's his innocent nature, the love he has for Kim and how he creates snow for her that gets to me. That and the haunting music by Danny Elfman, who has done many other scores for Burton. 

*Sidenote: Almost all of Tim Burton's movies have snow in them, one of his trademarks. There's always a scarecrow used somewhere along with some sort of Halloween or Christmas scene that he ties into his Gothic themes. Always thought it was neat how incorporated them into this movies. 

The misunderstood character of Edward Scissorhands is yet another way to tell the same old story of the poor outsider falling for the beautiful maiden, battling against the small minded town and eventually offering the greatest sacrifice for the protection of his love. How many ways can you tell the same story? Or rather, what other way can you re-tell THIS story?

How about a ballet? That's right, there's a ballet version! Matthew Bourne's Edward Scissorhands is found in the UK as a recreation of the movie. This magical story couldn't have been better expressed than on the stage with the use of dancers retelling every special scene. Watch some clips to see how creative the Topiary Dance is and the gorgeous Ice Dance will give you chills! Would love to see this ballet in person someday. 

For your Halloween enjoyment, flip through some clips and see for yourself what a neat piece this truly is :) 

Friday, October 23, 2009

For All You Would-Be Techies

Choreography Show has come and gone again this year. I was lucky to be in a wonderful piece with a great cast where we reenacted the French Revolution to Coldplay's "Viva la Vida." Pretty badass number--way to go, Aubrey! Anyway, this posting is not about the fabulous dance or really dance at all, but more about my excursions during tech week. 

My fellow MFA students and I had to partake in helping set-up tech for the show as a class assignment. Over several days we did some observing and often times joined helping with what we could. I made the grave mistake to volunteer for a job without first finding out what the job was. Techies, beware. 

To say that heights make me slightly nervous might be an understatement. They make me very nervous. However, during the two days we spent in Kirkpatrick I took several trips up a ladder for different jobs, battling my way through anxiety and sweaty palms. I’m afraid I truly was a “weenie,” so to speak, during one particular job and poor Steve, the lighting designer, had to come up to help me. 

In order to get the right lighting for performances, adjustments have to be made along the way and thus comes my first lighting job: Climb into the lighting coves on either side of the stage, adjust the lights with Steve's trusty wrench per his instruction. Right. OK, no problem--big kid stuff, I was a management major. I can totally do this...I should have known it was trouble when I started climbing up the first ladder and half-way up asked Cassie to hold it incase I toppled into the wells. Oh and Steve forgot to mention that from the ladder to the cove was about a foot of empty space for me to heave myself up into. Have I painted you a pretty picture yet?

 I climbed all the way up the stage left lighting cove and while up there he gave me instructions to lean a ladder up against this wall/shelf, climb up to the top and throw my leg over this wall to adjust a light that was several feet above me (Keep in mind I would be leaning over the lighting instruments a couple stories up...hanging down to the audience seating.).  Looking up wide-eyed to my given task, I about swallowed my tongue and suddenly my body went it fight or flight mode. In the mean time Cassie is below me doubled over laughing as I start flapping my arms repeatedly to keep the perspiration to a minimum. My palms begin sweating profusely so I try wiping them on my pants over and over. Taking some deep breaths praying I don't start crying from sheer terror, I can't help but turn around and face my supervisor with the most pitiful, pleading look. Perhaps it was my sudden silence, the fact that I had “PANIC” written over my face or maybe how I began clutching my heart in hopes it would keep from bounding out of my chest, but Steve decided to climb up to help.

All I can say is thank goodness he'd worked with plenty of other girls over the years and was nice enough not to make me climb up there anyway. There's no doubt in my mind I would have had a heart attack. I made it through our second lighting adjustment in the other cove on stage right and safely back to the ground when Steve realized he had left his wrench in the first cove. On the wall he wanted me to climb. Did I retrieve the wrench? Yes, I did, but I find it hard not to wonder if that had been left up there on purpose. The mystery remains unsolved...

So all you would-be techies out there, be aware when volunteering for jobs and know there is no shame in pulling the "weenie" card now and again. 

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Oldies but Goodies

Lately I've been noticing more and more how much older I am getting...and I'm only 22 years old. The first sign came the other day when our jazz professor put on an Alanis Morissette song for stretching and over three quarters of the room had no idea who she was...

Aside from these youngin's lack of musical education, and I myself am no guru, I've noticed how my body needs that extra time to prepare for class. I've become that student that shows up early, takes time to warm-up before the warm-up because I know something will hurt otherwise. Oh, and things hurt.

*Side note: Switch second leaps were created for rubber band people...**

It's not that I don't care of my body, eat the right things and get plenty of sleep...well, that last part I try to get as much as my schedule will allow. I just can't whip down into the splits first thing in the morning any more. What kills me is watching some of the undergrads waltz into class couple minutes before barre or jazz class, complain of tight muscles and whomp! They pop down into a full on straddle! What in the world!?

Part of me wants to let the kiddos know that they are not as old as they think--wasted breath really since not a one of them will believe me. Heck, I never believed those older dancers when they said that same thing to me. Truly it's a bit shocking how my body is not as limber as it used to be when I'm really not that old.

On an upside to this "aging" part of my career, I'm learning how to better prepare my body for class. I'm learning how to allow my body time to ease into stretches, focusing on the strengthening aspect of each movement rather than just holding a pose for minutes on end. I'm the girl that comes in with layers to keep my muscles warm, slowly peeling each one off over the course of a 45 minute center technique development sequence to stay good and warm . Focus on breath and visualizing where its going in my body has helped immensely for me as well.

Overall I'm approaching my classes, warm-ups, exercises with a more mature eye than I ever have before. It's been a gradual change over the last four years, but I've finally come to appreciate taking that time for my body. I look at that time as self-indulgent, relishing in every stretch I can take because I now know that later down the line, I'll be saving myself from some major muscle aches and possible injuries down the way.

For all you dancers, what are some stretches or warm-up rituals that you do to get ready for a class? Are they physical movements or mental reminders? I'd love to pass the knowledge on to my students now and in the future!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

If only...

There were more hours in the day, what I could accomplish! Alas, I truly believe that even with additional hours I would never finish what all I set out for myself to accomplish, including updating my forgotten blog.

It was always my intention to take at least one day a week to update this little page with information about dance, my own ideas, opinions, historical information and what have you. Unfortunately I have fallen into the same pattern I always do, creating grand plans and never being able to execute them all. Time management people!

I'm still perfecting the art that is "time management" and I'm always amazed at what I've accomplished and what is left on the list that looms largely on my purple pad of paper. Have no fear, I've returned and will hopefully be able to update this slice of insight to provide to anyone interested in reading. For now I can go on to tell you a bit about my experience in my first full semester as a graduate MFA student at Oklahoma City University.

Amazing. Simply amazing. It has so far given me everything I could possible want or need in a program that will hopefully send me on my way to teach in the dance community. I have wonderful professors that are giving me the tools to explore my own choreography and teaching style which is not always the easiest thing to do. Sometimes breaking the barriers of your typical style requires a little frustration, a little comedy and much creativity. I'm soaking it all up with an open mind and a positive attitude, a key to being successful in almost any endeavor.

There are two wonderful ladies who are also in their first year of the program with me. Each one comes from a different background and I've been able to learn so much just by observation. I encourage anyone in whatever field you are in to observe and take note of those around you. Successful or not, there is something to be learned by doing a bit of watching--for dance there is more "people watching" if you will, yet even the mental process of choreography and teaching can aid you later in your own experiences.

I'm still teaching at a local studio where my classes have grown some and I find that I'm continuing to fine tune my teaching style and learning how to build a solid curriculum--there is still a long way to go. Nothing brightens my day more than to teach a class, help the students and try to find what will work for each individual. What a constant challenge.

Dance, I believe, is an art form that is unique in and of itself it that every day is different. Everyday brings something new with how your body works and feels--there is almost never a two days in a row where you are completely aligned perfectly or right on the money when turning. Teaching class, taking class, there is always a constant strive to be better, work harder and learn more. Steps are invented every day, combinations are morphed into something more and of course there are various different types of genres within dance. Plus, it is one of the only forms of art that is creating art with your entire body--a continual reshaping of a sculpture that can change again and again.

How lucky I feel to be immersed in something that gives me such pleasure and continues to intrigue me. I can't wait to see where my bliss and passion will take me next.
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